Bloomington’s Mills Pool lets dogs swim to end summer


For 16 years now, a well-orchestrated, dog-centric tradition called Drool in the Pool has marked the end of Bloomington’s summer vacation.

Dozens of the city’s vaccinated, socialized and well-behaved dogs, ranging this year from a pug to a St. Bernard-Labrador retriever mix, are entitled to two evenings of dog-only swimming at Mills Pool on West 14th Street.

While the town’s Bryan Park Pool, off South Woodlawn Avenue, remains open part-time for a few more weeks, Mills Pool goes dog friendly around the time school starts in August.

Workers drain and clean the public pool every year after the event, preparing it for winter.

Sampson, owned by Ginny Hollenback, jumps into Mills Pool Thursday during Drool at the Pool.

One Drool in the Pool tradition is the dog competition, with prizes awarded for first, second and third place. The Best Pet Trick category is a standard, but other contests vary from year to year.

This year, most of the animal trick competition participants were too distracted to play, despite the treat offerings. A little dog called Tessie won by dancing, if only for a few seconds.

Another regular challenge is the Dog / Owner Look Alike competition, won this year by an adorable little dog named Tormund and his owner, Danielle. The entry sheet only requires the first names of the competitors, canines and humans.

Danielle Baker and Tormund pose for the dog and owner lookalike contest during Drool at the Pool at Mills Pool on Thursday.  They won first place.

At the start of Drool in the Pool, there were judgments for the best costume, often won by a pair of majestic standard poodles who dressed in ballerinas one year and showed up in beachwear another.

In 2014 there was a “best kiss” category, and the winner on Thursday night was Kourtney, a 7 year old mixed breed dog adopted as a puppy from the local animal shelter.

She also won the Grand Champion Dog award. The Herald-Times story of that year read: “Kourtney loves to run and jump in the arms of her owner, Bob Foyut.”

This year, 11 dogs lined up with their owners to be photographed in the Most Photogenic Dog Contest. After long debates, the judges chose Rikki as the winner.

This is Rikki, who won first place in the most photogenic dog contest at Drool in the Pool on Thursday night.

In recognition of the ongoing Summer Olympics in Tokyo, a new competition, Aqua Fetch, has been added to Thursday night’s Drool in the Pool program. Dog owners would throw a tennis ball into the pool, and their dog would jump in, retrieve the ball and then return to the edge of the pool, ball in its mouth.

Participants were judged on their throw, jump, splash, speed, recovery skill, swimming technique and grace of exiting the pool.

The first was Scout, a good-sized golden retriever who was hesitant to chase after the ball at first, wobbling over the edge and then backing up, despite words of encouragement from passers-by.

2019 event:Dogs rule at Drool in the Pool

Kora, owned by Kaytee Lorentzen, collects a ball from Mills Pool on Thursday during Bave at the Pool.

But after watching from the sideline a few other dogs dive in and come back with a tennis ball, the judges gave Scout a second chance. The dog stepped forward, dived into the clear water, the dog paddled gently the length of the pool, snatched the ball, made a sharp turn and swam to the edge.

Spectators by the pool cheered and applauded. The judges declared Scout the winner of the fetch competition, as well as Grand Champion Dog for 2021.

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